29 Olympics, no medals? No problem. Quebec-led fencing squad hungry for history

François Cauchon has had a lot on his plate recently — all of it good.

He just graduated from McGill University with a degree in finance. He also just found out that he’ll be headed to Paris this summer for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Oh, and today’s his birthday.

“It was a surreal feeling honestly,” said Cauchon, who just turned 24. “I think that for every amateur and professional athlete, the Olympics is the holy grail of sports.”

Cauchon is among 14 fencers that will represent Canada in Paris — the country’s largest Olympic fencing team since 1988. The Montrealer is also one of five Quebecers on the squad. Canadian fencers will compete in five events, a mix of singles and teams formats.

Pamela Brind’Amour will be representing Canada in the women’s sabre singles event. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

Cauchon has been involved in the sport for about 12 years, and sees his qualification for Canada’s Olympic team as “the outcome of many years of hard work, results and toughness,” especially this past year.

He said injuries and constantly being away from his family due to training camps and competitions took a physical and emotional toll on him. 

“I had tendinitis in my knee, a bit of back problems as well. I twisted my ankle. So there were no major injuries, but just small injuries that in the long term affect you and especially in an Olympic year when you want to be 100 per cent at every competition,” he said. 

“You try to fight through them and also come back to your best as you were before the injury.”

Cauchon will compete as part of Canada’s first Olympic men’s sabre team since 1996. Canadian fencers have never medalled at the Olympics.

Bouncing back

The 2024 Olympic Games represent a chance at redemption for Pamela Brind’Amour.

The 31-year-old from Saint-Martine, a small town on Montreal’s South Shore, had qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Games but had to stay home due to an injury.

She knows she’s not one of the favourites in the women’s sabre singles competition, but she says she’s going into Paris with high expectations.

“My goal is to win. I don’t really see myself setting a lower a goal,” she said. 

Fencers practising.
Pamela Brind’Amour and the rest of the Canadian team are gearing up for Paris. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

Cauchon says Canada’s team has what it takes to break through and make history.

“I want to win a medal with the team. That’s the number-one priority,” he said.

“I think we have a great team that’s a mix of really experienced guys and younger guys like me. So I think we have a true shot at a medal.”

Here is a full list of Canada’s Olympic fencing team:

Men’s épée:

  • Nicholas Zhang (Richmond, B.C.)

Men’s foil:

  • Blake Broszus (San Jose, USA)
  • Daniel Gu (Edmonton)
  • Bogdan Hamilton (St. Louis, USA)
  • Maximilien Van Haaster (Montreal)

Women’s foil:

  • Sabrina Fang (Vancouver)
  • Jessica Guo (Toronto)
  • Eleanor Harvey (Hamilton)
  • Yunjia Zhang (Toronto)

Men’s sabre:

  • François Cauchon (Montreal)
  • Olivier Desrosiers (Montreal)
  • Shaul Gordon (Richmond, B.C.)
  • Fares Arfa (Laval, Que.)

Women’s sabre:

  • Pamela Brind’Amour (Sainte-Martine, Que.)

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